Thursday, August 21, 2014

Entrepreneurial Farmer

Resilient Tourism: Foreign 
Visitors Surge In Albay

Mr. Johnny C. Nunez reported that Albay’s resilient tourism program has speedily and effectively put the province back on track shortly after Typhoon Glenda’s recent devastations. Foreign tourists are flocking back in droves to the country’s fastest growing destination, Albay.

Less than a month after Glenda pummeled the province, the newly opened Albay International Gateway (AIG) rolled out the red carpet last August 8 to welcome 154 Chinese tourists who flew direct from Xiamen on board a Cebu Pacific Airlines’ flight, wrote Nunez.

The batch kicks off Cebu Pacific’s initial 18-cycle, three-month running contract flights from August 8 to October 10 this year.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said the province’s strong disaster resilient program made the project possible. The entire machinery of the Albay local government focussed on getting back on track immediately after the disaster, particularly in tourism.

Glenda mauled Albay for over seven hours last July 16. Salceda personally led the provincial government machinery immediately. They  cleared the debris evening of the same day so that residents woke up the next morning with almost all the roads already passable.

Water and power supplies were heavily derailed, but the local government resorted to alternative sources particularly in critical areas. Team Albay’s Water and Sanitation unit provided continuous supply of potable water while commercial and industrial outfits made available their power generators.

The telecommunication systems heavily damaged were back in service in five days, while public offices have reopened immediately the following day. Airplane flights were also restored the following day using back up facilities, he added.

The first batch of about 300 Chinese tourists flew in Albay early this 2014 on board the Philippine Airlines flights, also from Xiamen, in time to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Albay.

Salceda said the AIG was established under Executive Order No. 29, designating Legazpi City as an international gateway for direct flights from foreign tourism markets. It marks a local government breakthrough in tourism, one that opens doors to and from various parts of the world via the non-traditional routes, the links to which were worked out. China, Korea and Taiwan are initial targets.
The Bicol International Airport in Daraga town is now under construction. It is set to open in 2016 but Salceda said tourists “don’t have to wait that long to enjoy Albay’s wondrous experience.”
The Department of Tourism has declared Albay as the fastest growing tourism destination in the Philippines with a 66 percent growth rate in 2013. With the AIG, Salceda hopes to make that record consistent.

“We put in place our CIQS or customs, immigration, quarantine and security systems. We made necessary adjustments to standards of international airports and institutionalized the operating mechanisms under our Albay International Gateway Committee (AIGC) which now supervises the international flights,” said Salceda, who chairs the AIGC.

A noted economist, Salceda said the new Albay gateway could bring in about P6.5 billion in revenues to Albay a year, five times its annual budget. A Chinese tourist can spend around $1,000 a day during his 5-day stay in Albay. This will also help create jobs for Albayanos at a rate of one job opportunity per tourist. 

Salceda expects “many more direct flights to Albay to follow and bring to the heart of Bicolandia thousands of tourists and holiday-seekers who will help boost the Albay BOOM economic battle cry,” Salceda enthused.

The governor said the gateway also opens up Albay for global engagements, particularly the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) in 2015, which kicks off in December this year. /MP

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